13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five sketches of freedom, alienation and culture shock
The five stories that make up IAFS travel from international waters, America, India, Britain, The West Indies, unnamed Africa to Egypt. If Naipaul’s scope of geography is great then his sense of linking different people in different places together is even greater. Even though the book is made up from different stories that bear no relation to each other they all...
Published on 5 Feb 2003 by Alex Magpie
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rating for missing material
The book itself is a masterpiece, but in downloading the Kindle version, I found it was missing seminal pieces such as 'One out of Many' for which I had purchased the kindle version. I needed to be able to adjust the font size and since this important content was missing, I had to revert back to a paper copy which wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't dyslexic and looking for...
Published 8 months ago by vikki650
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3.0 out of 5 stars Freedom isn't what it used to be...,
The copy I read was a printing of the original book which won the 1971 Booker Prize. The author subsequently agreed with the publisher to allow the central African novella to be published on its own, without the accompnaying short stories. He had come to believe that they distracted somewhat from the central tale. I believe he might have a point. Certainly the other four supporting tales were of variable quality and none were as strong as the central story of a road trip through an African state during violent regime change. The reality of faded colonialism is poignantly portrayed in the fading grandeur of the Colonel's hotel, and the myth of freedom is challenged in the frustrated sexual desires of the two main protagonists. Freedom, and its limitations are the linked themes throughout all five tales, and I do think the author communicates more by telling the five stories rather than just the one. But overall it didn't quite spark into life. I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it. I appreciated it, but I wasn't inspired by it.
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novella,
This version of "In a free state" contains only the central novella, but what an interesting read it is. The central characters are vividly drawn, with great insight into human nature and cultural differences. I couldn't wait to learn more about them (as they drive each other up the wall!) and to see how the story of their journey through a war torn African state unfolded. As ever with Naipaul this is beautifully written. Powerful stuff, it certainly doesn't pull any punches.
3.0 out of 5 stars What is V. S. Naipaul's attitude to black Africans?,
This review is from: In a Free State: The Novel (Kindle Edition)
I could have given this a higher rating and the reason I didn't was that there is not a single likeable character in the book. Bobby at first arouses sympathy but his attitude to blacks as cheap sexual gratification eventually makes one feel as antipsychotic towards him as towards everyone else.
3.0 out of 5 stars studies in disillusionment and chaos,
THis collection is one of Naipaul's darkest. While I dutifully plowed through it, I was depressed by the emptiness and psycholigical terror of just about every story. THe Novella of the title is a sad journey in Africa made by two residents of a roped-off European area, through the background of appalling civil war that eventually touches them. They are mediocrities with nowhere else to go, one the aging wife of a has-been journalist, the other a man who exploits poverty-stricken male prostitutes. THe other stories are similarly bleak. One tells of a beaten-down man who is trying to help his brother as they struggle to emigrate to England. Another recounts the misadventures of an Indian man who moves to Washington, DC and marries an American black woman by default.
It is a strange collection of stories and travel, a testament to despair and disorderly life. Naipaul's other books are better and have far more humor.
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning characterisation, stunning descriptive passages.,
Stunning book! By page 3 you know this is something special. Does make you examine yourself though, and not always a comfortable read. My first V. S. Naipaul, about to order more.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars,
Nepal's writing is excellent and this account of the experiences of ex pats in Africa revealing.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious,
I'm always suspicious of any book which needs to declare itself 'a novel' on the front cover, since it normally indicates that the description is up for debate. In this case, the suspicions were well founded. 'In A Free State' is less a novel than a collection of five unrelated short stories of erratic length and style.
Still, the first two were promising - the first being in the style of a journal entry, the second a narrative by an Indian manservant newly arrived in New York. They were beautifully written and, particularly the latter, full of insights.
Things went downhill with the latter three stories. The story about the West Indian man in London was written in an intensely irritating style and was so utterly confusing I almost lost the will to read altogether. But at least it wasn't very long.
The fourth story is the longest, divided into chapters, centered on two British expats making a car journey in an unnamed African country riven with civil war. It is written in mind-blowingly minute detail, which is tedious to read. The characters are dull and I couldn't summon any interest in them. I found myself skipping through the last few chapters in desperation to finish. By the time I reached the final 'story' I had lost the will, and skimmed through it.
Maybe fans of very minutely detailed writing might enjoy this novel but I just found it excruciatingly dull.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling,
I enjoyed this book of short stories a little more than my previous Naipaul- a House for Mr. Biswas. He writes well and gives you a good feel of the characters, BUT the reader is forever struggling to detect the hidden messages, as his stories seem to be in code. I had great difficulty understanding the ending of the main story, and could not see any link between the five stories. Only " One out of Many", the story of an Indian cook moving to USA, seems complete in itself.
1971 must have been a bad year for Booker entries.
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In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul (Paperback - Feb 2002)
Used & New from: £0.01